Longshot rookie WR survives Browns final roster cut
BEREA -- As he entered his first NFL training camp, rookie wide receiver C.J. Jones had one goal: to make it difficult for the Cleveland Browns to cut him.
Instead, he made it impossible.
''I just tried to keep making plays, everyday,'' said Jones, an undrafted free agent from Iowa who overcame long odds to make Cleveland's roster. ''Every time I caught the ball, I tried to make a surprising play.''
Jones made a bunch, including a 78-yard kickoff return and 17-yard TD reception in an exhibition game at Detroit that moved him to the brink of making the team.
On Wednesday, the versatile speedster pulled off another stunner.
He revealed that he's also playing cornerback.
''They told me to be ready for both sides of the ball,'' Jones said. ''I haven't played there (on defense) since high school.''
With cornerbacks Michael Lehan and Lewis Sanders nursing injuries, the Browns are lacking depth in their secondary and need Jones to be available in a pinch.
He's hoping the Browns get in one. Jones didn't hesitate when asked if he'd like to play both ways in a game.
''Oh, yeah,'' he said. ''I'd do anything.''
Jones was quick to come up with another NFL player to play offense and defense.
''Deion (Sanders),'' he said smiling.
The Browns first tried Jones on defense two weeks ago in practice. Those sessions are closed to the media, so his new role had been kept a secret.
The first indication Jones was playing defense was that his locker had been moved Wednesday to the other side of the room. Another was that his number changed from 3 to 23.
Browns coach Butch Davis said for Jones to have any chance of being activated in the regular season, he needed to make himself more versatile.
''He's a good athlete, and if we were going to activate him, it would give you a real bonus,'' Davis said. ''It would add to your pool of special teams players and it would cover you in case of an injury at wide receiver. And in the worst case scenario, he could go in as another defensive back.''
It was Jones' whatever-I-can-do-to-help attitude that quickly endeared him to the Browns. Jones caught 38 passes as a senior with the Hawkeyes and returned a kickoff for a TD in Iowa's loss to Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl.
He had hoped to be drafted, but his phone never rang during a long weekend in April. The same was true for Iowa's talented quarterback, Brad Banks, who happens to be Jones' first cousin.
The Browns were intrigued by Jones' athleticism, and signed him in May. From the first time he touched a ball in mini-camp to his 31-yard reception in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's exhibition finale, Jones showed he was a playmaker.
''You clearly felt halfway into camp that it was going to be hard to keep him off the team,'' Davis said.
''There was rarely a day in practice or rarely a drill where you didn't say, 'Wow, there he goes again, he's making another play.'''
Jones took a winding path to the pros.
A high school track star in Boynton Beach, Fla., Jones didn't have the grades to get into a top college program. He enrolled at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, and after two seasons, transferred to Iowa where he was a two-year starter.
Despite his solid preseason, Jones wasn't sure he had made Cleveland's roster until Sunday's team meeting.
''I sweated it out the whole weekend,'' he said. ''I went the long way to get here. From a junior college and then to Iowa. I have so many different playbooks in my head. I just have one now, though.''
But he needs to know it cover to cover.